Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Donny Cates
Artwork: Geoff Shaw
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Lettering: John J. Hill
Release Date: 9th December 2020
Crossover is nothing short of brilliant. Seriously, I’m going to bat on this one from the get-go. Issue one – if you haven’t read it (and you should) – was an excellent story. This week we roll into the dreaded issue two, and I have to say that it’s even better – an almost impossible task for a sophomore issue.
There are good comics out there, with technically brilliant writing, engaging art, and an enjoyable story. Then there are comics that just sort of permeate into your psyche, somehow you just know you’re witnessing the birth of something a bit different. Think Black Hammer or Saga (or for you older readers, Watchmen or The Sandman). Reading these for the first time, you get the sense that this isn’t a comic, it’s an occasion. It’s going to be relevant. I’m going say that so far, Crossover feels exactly like that. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, but I’m excited by the prospect.
The issue builds on the story as we learn a bit more of the world after the event. Well, I say builds on, but it practically 180’s. The sudden switch from what I thought was happening to what does happen almost had me reaching for a neck brace, and it’s utterly glorious. There are so many threads and themes prevalent in Crossover it has no right to be as good as it is. It should be the narrative equivalence of an eight-car pile-up, yet Donny Cates seems to have passed his advanced driving test because he navigates this story with a clipped precision that’s a rarity these days.
The relevance of the story and the imagery and themes are great. The fact that this is based on the “Summer superhero event,” but it turns that into the main destructive driver of Crossover is smart. It seems to hold a mirror up to the two big publishers, almost as if it’s hinting that while years ago this was a great thing, now it is perhaps more damaging to the industry. Using that as a catalyst to have comics and the people from the comic book reality targets of hate-crimes and prejudices have to be a reflection of the current worldwide partisan political and religious attitudes. Then, threading its way through that we three different protagonists and tropes (so far): Ellipses searching for her lost parents and family; Ryan Lowe trying to get out of the shadow of his father (the religious fanatic) and defining/finding himself; and Ava with what looks to be a classic coming of age arc.
Add to this mix a mysterious government division tasked with solving the event crisis, what is essentially an Underground railroad for trapped people from the comic-book reality, and a fanatical militia-type organisation that wants to destroy anything comics-related. Finally, weave everything together with a strange prophecy-type quest for our protagonists. It’s almost too good, and that’s about as close a summary as I can give without actually spoiling the story for you.
The creators are clearly having a lot of fun in producing this comic. The assassination of Brian K Vaughn as the top news story at the start of the issue is laugh-out-loud funny. As is the inventive way Geoff Shaw has clearly hinted at several mainstream Supes in this issue. I’ve identified The Thing, Spawn and Batman (I’m sure there are many others); it’s such a fun homage to all things comic-book, and adds to the enjoyment, kind of like a geekish version of ‘Where’s Wally?’.
Even the main characters seem to be in deference to comic canon. I immediately think of Miss Marvel, Jubilee, or bizarrely, Silk Spectre when I see Elli in the comic. The way Geoff has drawn the Ryan Lowe character makes me think of Archie comics for some reason, or early 90’s mainstream cartoon shows with his clean-lined face features that seem just different enough from all the other faces drawn in the issue. Perhaps it’s just that there is little use of shadow on Ryan’s face throughout the comic, compared to other characters, a trick I suspect is used to push the fact he’s a bit innocent and naive (at least he is in this issue). I think it’s wonderfully creative, and subtle art – even the narrative interludes by Ellie. Dee Cunniffe painting them in a spectral blue to emphasise the point and a slight change of pace is delightful. All the creators are pulling in the right direction here, and it shines through.
I am massively impressed by Crossover. Not just with the story and art, but the overall delivery is second-to-none. This seems to be such a layered and considered piece of art that I can’t help but be spellbound when I read it. I love that I’ve plugged into this on multiple levels and yet I still really have no idea where this story is going to go. 110%, this is one to watch and savour.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.